ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkish officials have asked the United States administration to increase its pressure on Congress to approve a pending arms sale to Turkey, which needs fresh weapons in its war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to diplomatic sources.
“We have realized that we should better inform members of Congress about Turkey and current issues. To this end, we will send delegations to the U.S. Congress after Congressional elections in November,” Hurriyet quoted an anonymous source close to the issue as saying.
The message was given to U.S. officials by the Turkish diplomatic delegation headed by Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu that visited Washington this week. The delegation held talks with senior State Department officials William Burns and James Steinberg, American-Turkish Council head Richard Armitage and representatives of the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States.
According to reports, the U.S. Congress suspended negotiations for arms sales to Turkey following the country’s no vote at the United Nations Security Council over imposing a new round of sanctions on Iran. A number of Congressmen later signed a joint statement urging the administration to review its state of alliance with Turkey.
“Turkey’s objective was not and is not to defend Iran but to solve the problem through diplomacy,” the delegation told their counterparts.
Regarding the sanctions on Iran, the Turkish delegation repeated its commitment to the U.N. resolution and said it would implement it. However, the Turkish diplomats underlined the close ties between Turkey and Iran and made it clear that Washington’s unilateral sanctions would not be endorsed by Turkey.
The delegation also discussed with their counterparts continued cooperation in Turkey’s fight against the PKK. The Turkish diplomats emphasized the need to intensify U.S. efforts to cut the flow of money to the PKK, especially from Europe. The U.S. administration, meanwhile, said it would continue to work with Turkey.
The appointment process of Francis Ricciardone as the top U.S. envoy to Turkey was also on the delegation’s agenda. “The absence of an American ambassador is a serious matter,” said one Turkish diplomat.
U.S. officials said they were expecting that the appointment process would be completed in early September but were avoiding making concrete statements.
Turkey’s relations with Israel and the suspended reconciliation process with Armenia were also discussed. Having noted that Turkey would not stop asking for an apology and compensation from Israel for the May 31 flotilla attack, the Turkish diplomats also expressed their desire to normalize ties with Israel.
Arguing that the reconciliation process with Armenia had been suspended due to internal political problems in that country, the Turkish diplomats asked the U.S. to intervene to revitalize the process.